noun, often attributive
whis·​tle | \ ˈhwi-səl How to pronounce whistle (audio) , ˈwi-\

Definition of whistle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a small wind instrument in which sound is produced by the forcible passage of breath through a slit in a short tube a police whistle
b : a device through which air or steam is forced into a cavity or against a thin edge to produce a loud sound a factory whistle
2a : a shrill clear sound produced by forcing breath out or air in through the puckered lips
b : the sound produced by a whistle
c : a signal given by or as if by whistling
3 : a sound that resembles a whistle especially : a shrill clear note of or as if of a bird


whistled; whistling\ ˈhwi-​s(ə-​)liŋ How to pronounce whistling (audio) , ˈwi-​ \

Definition of whistle (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a : to utter a shrill clear sound by blowing or drawing air through the puckered lips
b : to utter a shrill note or call resembling a whistle
c : to make a shrill clear sound especially by rapid movement the wind whistled
d : to blow or sound a whistle
2a : to give a signal or issue an order or summons by or as if by whistling
b : to make a demand without result he did a sloppy job, so he can whistle for his money

transitive verb

1a : to send, bring, signal, or call by or as if by whistling
b : to charge (someone, such as a basketball or hockey player) with an infraction
2 : to produce, utter, or express by whistling whistle a tune
whistle in the dark
: to keep up one's courage by or as if by whistling

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Other Words from whistle


whistleable \ ˈhwi-​sə-​lə-​bəl How to pronounce whistleable (audio) , ˈwi-​ \ adjective

Examples of whistle in a Sentence


The policeman blew his whistle. We could hear the train's whistle. We could hear the low whistle of the wind through the trees. the whistle of the tea kettle


He was whistling as he walked down the street. He whistled for a cab. He whistled a happy tune. The teakettle started to whistle. A bullet whistled past him.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Chop block calls, holding and offsides whistles were major detours to any hint of the two teams moving the football. Robert Avery, Houston Chronicle, "Memorial dealt 14-0 season-opening loss to Kempner," 30 Aug. 2019 While both cement the centerback position, Sané is the vocal leader of the backline, shouting out instructions from the first to the last whistle. Julia Poe, Pro Soccer USA, "Lamine Sané stands out as vocal leader for Orlando City’s revamped backline," 27 Aug. 2019 At first, the sound was discordant, a mixture of yells and whistles and the general chaos of the crowd. Louisa Thomas, The New Yorker, "Pain and Resentment and the Inspiring Retirement of Andrew Luck," 27 Aug. 2019 People who attempt to take a seat are signaled with whistles, and asked to move from the site. Natalie B. Compton, chicagotribune.com, "Sitting on Rome’s famous Spanish Steps can now cost you a serious fine," 20 Aug. 2019 Chubb punctuated two days of hard, physical, relentless running past the whistle with a 65-yard touchdown blast off left guard on the first play of a team period, albeit with no tackling to the ground permitted. Mary Kay Cabot, cleveland.com, "Nick Chubb fires up Baker Mayfield with 65-yard TD blast vs. Colts and more takeaways," 15 Aug. 2019 All of a sudden, the whistle sounds, and the game is over. Ben Church, CNN, "It's official. Watching soccer can be good for your health," 11 Aug. 2019 The sounds of whistles echoed as players ran from one rep to another and the voices of players and coaches yelling throughout the session rang throughout the parking lot. Cameron Teague Robinson, The Courier-Journal, "With 70% of its playbook installed, Louisville football begins camp focused on reps," 5 Aug. 2019 Big trucks rumbled to and from the nearby port, and occasionally a train whistle pierced the air loud enough to make the tourists cover their ears. Matt Tunseth, Anchorage Daily News, "The silvers are in at Ship Creek. Here’s how I got skunked.," 29 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

In addition, when Neymar's name was heard over the loudspeaker, PSG's ultras jeered and whistled. Luis Miguel Echegaray, SI.com, "Neymar Booed as Brazilian Returns to PSG's First Team vs. Strasbourg," 14 Sep. 2019 Supporters booed and whistled as the Andorran anthem continued to sound. George Ramsay, CNN, "Anthem mix-up sparks controversy during Albania's match against France," 8 Sep. 2019 Photo: juan mabromata/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images The announcement was met with boos and whistling from the hundreds of River fans who had already flowed into the stadium after El Monumental opened its doors. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, "South America’s Soccer Final Postponed for Second Time," 25 Nov. 2018 Spectators have been taunting four-time champion Froome since he was cleared of doping just before the race started, while Thomas has been whistled and booed at for being Froome’s teammate. Samuel Petrequin, The Seattle Times, "Brailsford blames French cycling culture for abuse of Sky," 23 July 2018 The dancers are now audience members; cheering, screaming and whistling as professionals or students emerge from backstage for their performances. New York Times, "Watch These Captivating Salsa Dancers, and Try Not to Break a Sweat," 14 June 2018 Already on a power play, Boston earned another man-up advantage when Blues center Ryan O’Reilly couldn’t clear the puck and was whistled for delay of game. Nicole Yang, BostonGlobe.com, "No glory — or play ‘Gloria’ — for Blues after they bungled Game 6," 10 June 2019 To Peppa’s relief, Suzy says no, but then asks what whistling is, anyway. Sonia Rao, Washington Post, "Who is that animated pig all over your timeline? Why, it’s Peppa!," 24 July 2019 And these are the fans who once whistled at Ronaldo; the club's record goalscorer, the most successful player in the club's history. Matias Grez, CNN, "From dream start to nightmare end, Gareth Bale's Real Madrid career turns sour," 23 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'whistle.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of whistle


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for whistle


Middle English, from Old English hwistle; akin to Old Norse hvīsla to whisper

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Statistics for whistle

Last Updated

2 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for whistle

The first known use of whistle was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for whistle



English Language Learners Definition of whistle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a small device that makes a very high and loud sound when a person blows air through it
: a device through which air or steam is forced to produce a very high and loud sound
: a high and loud sound made by forcing air through your lips or teeth



English Language Learners Definition of whistle (Entry 2 of 2)

: to make a high sound by blowing air through your lips or teeth
: to produce a high and loud sound by forcing air or steam through a device
: to move, pass, or go very fast with a high sound


whis·​tle | \ ˈhwi-səl How to pronounce whistle (audio) , ˈwi-\

Kids Definition of whistle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a device by which a loud high-pitched sound is produced
2 : a high-pitched sound (as that made by forcing the breath through puckered lips)


whistled; whistling

Kids Definition of whistle (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to make a high-pitched sound by forcing the breath through the teeth or lips
2 : to move, pass, or go with a high-pitched sound The arrow whistled past.
3 : to produce a high-pitched sound by forcing air or steam through a device The kettle whistled.
4 : to express by whistling I whistled my surprise.

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More from Merriam-Webster on whistle

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with whistle

Spanish Central: Translation of whistle

Nglish: Translation of whistle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of whistle for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about whistle

Comments on whistle

What made you want to look up whistle? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to spread over or through

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